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Turnbull, Hunt suggest carbon emissions trading could start mid 2016 (Thank Gore and Palmer for the open door)

Australians have voted against a carbon tax twice. Liberals threw out Turnbull over the introduction of an emissions trading scheme in 2009, yet here he is, barely leader for two weeks and already they are floating a timeframe for the introduction of emissions trading.

I did warn that the Turnbull agreement  with the Nationals to keep Tony Abbott’s climate policies means almost nothing. It’s easy for him to keep the “target” and shift towards an Emissions Trading scheme (ETS) and he and Greg Hunt are suggesting that already.

Indeed, some of the fine print Turnbull probably wanted was already written in Abbott’s plan. Thanks to Al Gore and Clive Palmer, the possibility of emissions trading was left in the Direct Action legislation.Why else would Gore fly out here to stand next to a coal miner? And what did he offer Clive in return we wonder? Suddenly, Palmer demanded an ETS for his vote, but finally settled for a clause saying an ETS should be “reviewed” if our main trading partners brought one in. So Turnbull can technically keep the Abbott “plan” but entirely break the spirit of it. The Nationals (and 54 pro-Turnbull Liberals) will look like fools if they have inadvertently given a green light to force Australians to pour money into corrupt pointless foreign carbon trading schemes. It’s money for nothing. The EU will get to decide how much a carbon credit (and your electricity) costs in Australia.

Our main trading partners — like China — are bringing in token trading plans. China is going to keep increasing emissions for at least ten to fifteen years (which it was always going to do). But these symbolic plans are enough for Turnbull to pretend that bringing in an emissions trading scheme is what the Abbott plan does, and what Australian voters “want”.

Australians have voted against a carbon tax twice. Liberals threw out Turnbull over the introduction of an emissions trading scheme in 2009, yet here he is, barely leader for two weeks and already they are floating a timeframe for the introduction of emissions trading.

A forced payment to a “trading scheme” is a kind of tax, and it’s the worst kind where the money goes direct to financial houses rather than the government, creating long-lived commitments that are expensive or difficult to get rid of.

From the Australian Fin Review last weekend:

The purchase of international permits could start as early as mid-2016 with the introduction of the government’s safeguard mechanism regulations for the top 140 biggest polluters. Andrew Meare

September 22:

Mr Hunt said “the door was open” for international permits to be considered as part of a 2017-18 review of the emissions reduction fund and safeguards.”

The Turnbull government is considering fast-tracking a scheme to allow big emitters of carbon to buy international permits to offset their emissions.

This is the strategic door left open by Clive Palmer when Al Gore came in June 2014:

The Abbott government left the door open for review of the purchase of international permits in 2017-18 as part of its Direct Action scheme to tackle climate change.

But the departure of Tony Abbott – who was not a fan of international permits – has cleared the way for a reshaping of the federal government’s climate change policies including bringing forward the date for the purchase of permits as well as the survival of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

The purchase of international permits could start as early as mid-2016 with the introduction of the government’s safeguard mechanism regulations for the top 140 biggest polluters.

Under the possible changes, international permits could also be used by companies in the $2.5 billion Emissions Reduction Fund to meet their obligations. That option was supported by Environment Minister Greg Hunt when the fund was first proposed and blocked by Mr Abbott.

There has been no direct discussion about the international permits being moved forward, but it is strong possibility given the support for the scheme, including from Mr Hunt and senior Nationals MPs.

Note that Australia does not have to have an ETS, only to “review it”.

But the review will be carried out by the Climate Change Authority, and we can guess what they will say. It will be the excuse. Abbott stymied Palmer (and Gore) as much as he could, but the door was still left open. An ETS was not ruled out.

From October 2014:

Wednesday’s deal also represents a concession by Mr Palmer because he has secured no commitment to adopt an ETS even if the review finds one is required to meet Australia’s international obligations.

Fairfax Media first revealed on Sunday that an agreement was imminent after Mr Palmer appeared to soften his position by calling for a review of an ETS, rather than a straight commitment.

Here’s a detail we need to pay attention too in the Fin Review last weekend:

Under the Coalition’s safeguard mechanism policy – which is supposed to stop rogue emitters from negating reductions in other parts of the economy – companies will be penalised for exceeding emissions baselines. The purchase of international permits would allow them to offset any potential rise in their emissions.

Hunt said there has been “no decision” or even a discussion on bringing in international permits. The second auction for the Direct Action plan happens next month.

Keep your eyes on the “Safeguard mechanism”…

This may force some of our companies (and hence Australian consumers or stockholders) to buy emissions permits:

Some have criticised the federal government’s carbon rules as “all gums, no teeth”, which would allow big polluters to increase their emissions without penalty. They said the emissions baselines should be lowered to force companies to change their behaviour and cut emissions.

A study by Melbourne-based carbon consultancy RepuTex in August found that only 30 of the largest 150 polluters will be required to reduce their carbon emissions under the existing safeguard mechanism rules.

The “Safeguard Mechanism” is a basis for an ETS, it gave hope to  Alan Pears, Sustainable Energy and Climate researcher at RMIT, Nov 4, 2014:

The fine print on Xenophon’s proposed “safeguard” mechanism to prevent emissions blowouts under the Direct Action scheme will be critical. If this is weak, as envisioned by the government, we are wasting time we no longer have. If an effective framework is introduced, it could form a basis for a “baseline and credit” emissions trading scheme, which could be run by industry if the government doesn’t want to be accused of a backflip, having promised never to return to what it views as the dark days of carbon pricing.

Sadly, Pears resorts to namecalling in the rest of his confused article, but then, if CO2 has a minor role, he doesn’t have a job.

Greg Hunt has been given the role of “greening cities” and working with state and local government

The ICLEI and Agenda 21 people will like the direction this is going.

The new government has beefed-up Mr Hunt’s responsibilities ahead of crucial international climate talks in Paris later this year.

Although Mr Hunt, a Victorian, backed Mr Abbott in last week’s leadership ballot, he has emerged from the cabinet reshuffle with greater powers, including overall responsibility for the new Cities and Built Environment portfolios being taken on by junior minister Jamie Briggs.

The yet-to-be-finalised cities agenda is expected to focus on long-term planning for cities up to 2050, transport – including a greater focus on public transport and road design to deal with congestion – and the “greening” of cities.

The new role is expected to involve close cooperation with state and local governments …

Read more: Australian Fin Review (paywalled).

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